Dec 5, 2011
Comments Off on Scientists print skin, organs and now bone!

Scientists print skin, organs and now bone!

3d printed bone
Doctors will be able to order custom-built bone scaffolds within the next few years

Earlier this year researchers developed 3D printing techniques that can be used to “print” human organs and skin as well as blood vessels necessary to connect them to the recipient, now following four years of research, a team of engineers at the Washington State University have created a new 3D printing material that looks, feels and for the most part acts like bone.

Susmita Bose and her husband Amit Bandyopadhyay have been developing artificial bone-like materials since the late 1990’s, however it was the recent success of in vitro growing of actual bones around artificial scaffolds that attracted attention to the teams work.  Early testing on rats and rabbits have shown promising results with no apparent ill-effects noted.

This breakthrough came when the team discovered that by adding silica and zinc oxide it was possible to strengthen the main ceramic powder, making parts suitable for low load bearing application.  Using a customised printer this new bone-like material is printed in 20 micron layers with the process repeated layer upon layer until completed. The printed parts or scaffolds are then dried cleaned and baked for two hours at 1250C.  While real time application of this technology remains a number of years away, it is anticipated that doctors will be able to send a CT scan of the required body part to a specialist, who will produce a CAD file for 3D printing, once printed the surgeon would implant the “3D printed” transplant enabling surgeons to repair defects or injuries without taking a bone graph from elsewhere or using a synthetic mesh material that can have negative long-term effects.

Currently the team are trying to develop the controlled degradation of this new material. If successful the scaffold would dissolve in the body as the bone tissue grows over it. The future applications of this technology could revolutionise the medical industry particularly in the field of orthopedic procedures, dental work and the delivery of osteoporosis treatments.

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